“Boy Meets Girl” Is Heartwarming, Groundbreaking, Has Cute Queer Kissing

feature image via Boy Meets Girl


Though trans people are enjoying a significant rise in visibility in many spheres, finding any movie with a trans actress playing a trans woman feels like cause for celebration. When it happens to be the lead role in a romantic comedy, it become a ground-breaking moment for trans media representation. Add some beautiful queer chemistry, a little heartbreak, and a happy ending, and you’ve got Boy Meets Girl, a new indie film from writer/director Eric Schaeffer that I recently had the opportunity to screen.

The film centers around Ricky (played by newcomer Michelle Hendley), a gorgeous and whip-smart 20-something trans woman, and her straight-guy best friend Robby (played by Michael Welch of Twilight fame). Ricky is frustrated by the lack of acceptable men to date, and dreams of a life as a fashion designer in NY. She develops an attraction to her new friend Francesca (played by Alexandra Turshen), a 20-something cis girl from an influential local family who is engaged to her Marine boyfriend serving in Afghanistan. As Ricky and Francesca’s friendship blooms, her fiancé grows increasingly hostile and hateful towards Ricky. As the two young women spend more and more time together, Francesca eventually admits her own attraction to Ricky, which eventually lands them in bed together. Their budding relationship forces Francesca to deal with her fiancé’s bigoted views, and Robby to deal with his long-hidden feelings for Ricky. As emotions run high, secrets are revealed and all the characters must decide how best to move forward, and which relationships to hold on to.

image via  Boy Meets Girl

Ricky and Francesca (image via Boy Meets Girl)

Boy Meets Girl certainly isn’t perfect, but it would do the film a tremendous disservice to focus on the missteps when there are so many things to love about this movie. As I said, simply having a lead trans character who is portrayed by a trans person is really reason enough to be excited. But, perhaps even more importantly, Ricky is portrayed as both attractive and desirable without being fetishized or exploited. Ricky is sweet and smart and quirky and cute, and I dare you all not to have a crush on her by the end of the film. She’s also a whole person, with feelings and dreams and heartbreaks and desires all her own that don’t necessarily have anything to do with being trans. While she is feminine, she’s far the hyper-femme stereotypes, with a definite tomboy spirit. She’s perhaps one of the most nuanced, least stereotypical trans characters that has ever been portrayed in film. Schaeffer also completely avoids one of the most obnoxious of trans tropes: focusing on the transition/transformation aspect. We never hear her dead-name, there are no discussions about when she decided to transition, and even the flashbacks show Ricky as a girl. It’s a script that consistently validates her female identity, and portrays her the with same care and respect that’s given to cis characters. If only that weren’t such a revolutionary act.

While Schaeffer’s writing sets a great tone, it’s absolutely the acting that pushes Boy Meets Girl to the next level. Michelle Hendley absolutely shines in this film. She’s charming and instantly likable when the film opens on Ricky working her barista job, bantering first with Robby and then Francesca. Hendley perfectly portrays the strength of a long-out trans girl enduring transphobia and a backwards hometown, but also the vulnerability of someone in love for the first time. If there’s any justice in the film world, she will be the break-out star of the next few years. Alexandra Turshen also deserves mention for her outstanding performance. It would be easy for a rich debutante to come off as irritating, entitled or ignorant, but Turshen manages to make Francesca simply kind, friendly, and a little naive. Even in her momentary fuck-ups, you still can’t help but root for her to end up with Ricky. Hendley and Turshen also have fantastic chemistry with one another, and from early in the film, the sexual tension between them is palpable. When that tension is finally broken, the result is both rather steamy, and wonderfully heartwarming, with probably the best cis/trans queer lady sex scene that’s made it to film outside of porn.

The film isn’t totally without flaws, but they don’t take away significantly from its enjoyability. Perhaps the biggest issue has to do with how the film handles sex. While no actual sex is directly portrayed (it’s not porn, after all), the dialogue very heavily hints that Ricky is a top (that is, she penetrates people with her girl parts). While top trans girls do exist, they’re not exactly super common. And, given that Ricky was supposed to have started hormones as a teenager, it’s not super likely she’d be able to do that. Also, the horrific transmisogyny (along with some racism) spouted by Francesca’s Marine fiancé is difficult to stomach against the backdrop of a film with such a sweet nature. It’s a very jarring change in tone, could be triggery for some trans viewers. That, in turn, also makes his later change of heart somewhat difficult to believe, and it comes off a little hollow. Lastly, Ricky is the only trans character in the film. In the real world, trans folks very rarely exist in complete isolation, but that’s functionally the only way we’re portrayed in film and TV. Ricky being from a small town makes this somewhat forgivable, though. Again, these are relatively small flaws, and even all together, they do not detract from the movie. But, if Schaeffer had engaged a few trans people when he wrote the script, they might have been avoided all together.

In a year where cis people are still frequently cast in trans roles, Boy Meets Girl is an amazing of example of the transformational power of a trans woman as a lead actress. While the film certainly deals has some queer and trans themes, the story and characters should be approachable for a mainstream straight, cisgender audience, potentially providing a much needed portrayal of trans women as worthy of attraction, affection, and love. It’s a romantic comedy that’s actually both genuinely romantic, and genuinely funny. Michelle Hendley’s outstanding performance should catapult her into the spotlight, and hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more of her in the future.


Boy Meets Girl continues to screen in limited release, and will be release to DVD and streaming services on April 28th. In the meantime, you can watch the full-length trailer.


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Profile gravatar of Mari Brighe

Mari is a queer lady scientist and educator from Detroit, who skillfully avoids working on her genetics dissertation by writing about queer and trans life, nerd culture, feminism, and science. You can frequently find her running around at science-fiction conventions giving panels on consent culture and LGBT topics or DJing at fantastically strange parties. She is a contributing writer for TransAdvocate, maintains a personal blog at TransNerdFeminist, and can frequently be found stirring up trouble (and posting selfies) on Twitter.

Mari has written 36 articles for us.

30 Comments

  1. 0

    Mari,

    Loved this piece, can’t wait to see it in a couple of weeks with my partner (who just posted above lol) and hoping my extreme pain from SRS is either starting to fade or dealt with by then, as I really don’t want a wonderful movie ruined by outside stuff.

    I just wanted to say I don’t think “Ricky is the only trans character in the film. In the real world, trans folks very rarely exist in complete isolation” is actually fair criticism. I’ve been very close to this at times, when I started transition I had zero contact with the community. I’ve since had one fall into my lap through a friend, and I’ve made the effort of trying to find some links to our community and I have got a few, mostly through online stuff, but I’m still not very far away from being in isolation and I could very easily see myself being there. If I had craved the community just that little bit less my shyness would have won out, and I live in Sydney, a big city and one of the major queer cities.

    • 0

      Talie,

      I certainly didn’t meant to invalidate your experiences! I hope you didn’t take it that way. But, narrative media written by cis folks about trans people *does* have a problem with constantly depicting them in complete isolation, when most of of us do interact with other trans people, whether in real life or via the Internet.

      Hope you feel better soon, and congrats on your surgery!

      • 0

        Oh certainly didn’t feel invalidated, just that it is possible to be in isolation. Not thinking of the big picture of media narratives though, I’m on very high painkiller dosages and still in pain so my cogs are turning on the slow side :p

        I really don’t like the isolation and would love to continue to build my network with other girls I get along with.

        • 0

          I hope you feel better soon! I remember the stress when my wife was recovering from her surgery. Sending you positive thoughts!

          Also a note/question on the building of community- when my wife was transitioning at college she had quite a few friends who were also transitioning. Then she moved to the small town where I live and has chosen for the most part not to be out. We do have one older friend who has also transitioned. One day at the grocery store I saw a woman who I thought had a tran* history, but my wife has drilled into me that it is never okay to ask about a person’s history. So how does one build community? I thought it would be nice to meet someone in our small town to share stories with.

          Also the movie looks adorable!

  2. 0

    I LOVED THIS MOVIE. I give all the credit to Michelle Hendley who made everything believable and wonderful. From her comedic timing to the romance scenes, she just carried the film all the way through. I hope this is the start of a new career for her.

    In addition to all the smart comments you made in critique, I didn’t love the scene when she walked out of the water naked. I just don’t know that it was necessary when trans women’s bodies and women’s bodies, in general, are already fetishized so much. I thought Shaeffer was doing a pretty decent job of not doing that up ’til that point. Like, it felt like it was for edginess” more than necessary to drive the narrative forward.

    Anyway, though, I’m so glad you liked it! I am really excited about it! It played super well at the film festival I saw it at to a mostly-cis audience. I hope everyone sees it. Literally, everyone.

    • 0

      Hard to say with certainty without seeing the movie yet myself, but having heard about that scene before…I think there is value in showing a trans womans body as desirable in an open fashion where it isn’t hidden and secret like with porn. I don’t know that this scene achieves that, but I can see it as something worth trying to do. As long as it’s just depicting us as women, rather than fetishising (again as with porn).

    • 0

      No, you definitely aren’t being nitpicky. I wasn’t super comfortable with the nude scene, either. I’m sure Schaeffer intended it to be powerful, but it comes off as a little…exploitive, especially with NO other nudity in the film. But, in the context of a review, I didn’t really want focus on it, ya know?

      I also gripe a little that the film ended up with everyone is happy little hetero relationships, but that’s just my inherent queer biases showing. 😛 I just think the chemistry between Ricky and Francesca is so much more potent than either of them with their respective boys.

      • 0

        I know. I really wanted this “bi experimentation” with Francesca to turn into something meaningful because they were so darn cute together! But, hey, romantic comedies tend to have these neat little packaged endings, so whatever and the “best friend become boyfriend” thing is a pretty typical trope. If only her best friend was a girl, too. 🙂

        And the nude scene was powerful in the context of the film and of Ricky’s character. She totally would walk out and stand there like, “Hey. Hi. This is me and I’m not apologizing for it. Can you deal with that?” If they were going to do this scene, I appreciated that they didn’t shy away from her body or hide her. But I guess I just didn’t think the scene was necessary and it felt like an excuse to get her naked.

        But again, I really enjoyed it and I think you’ll love it, @talielow! Can’t wait to hear what you think!

      • 0

        Well the film is called Boy meets Girl, so I was expecting that. Also, bestfriend who loves you over a flightly person who would drops their fiance, albeit hateful fiance, at the drop of a dime to try something new. No brainer there. This Ricky character would have to be an idiot.

        Gender not relevant.

    • 0

      “I didn’t love the scene when she walked out of the water naked. I just don’t know that it was necessary when trans women’s bodies and women’s bodies, in general, are already fetishized so much.”

      Thanks for bringing this up. I was kind of curious about how the movie would turn out…but I am not interested in something where the only naked body shown is the trans woman. I guess I should try and be forgiving when so few movies even try, but I just can’t.

  3. 0

    I agree with all the positives you’ve mentioned – it was very cute, and so new. It was also awesome to see Ricky in the centre of the main love triangle. I feel like a lesser movie would have had her and Robby fighting for Francesca’s affection.

    However I’m a bit surprised you critique doesn’t mention – SPOILER ALERT – that the Sapphic romance soon gives way to both women ending up with and being more serious about men, an outcome all too familiar for films with writer female romance. I also thought Robby was a bit of a “nice guy” in his friendship with Ricky and was hoping she’d ultimately start her new life without him. Thoughts?

  4. 0

    So watching this with the gf. except i’m afraid maybe she will take the oem config (she’s a strong believer in a/m hardware) the wrong way, i don’t know. still it sounds like the only decent film portrayal of a transsexual woman since Alien(1979).

  5. 0

    Oh my goodness THANK YOU for posting this review because I had not heard of it before and it sounds wonderful and is Relevant to My Interests, AND it is playing in my town next week! Buying tickets like right now THANK YOU AUTOSTRADDLE.

  6. 0

    I just saw it myself, and tbh, the first adjective that came to mind about Ricky was “snarky” followed by “acerbic.” Not that these are bad traits at all, but they did come off as a bit of a defense mechanism. She seemed very much the Graham to Francesca’s Megan, no?

  7. 0

    I just started watching this and I pretty much agree with what everyone has said.

    Also, I was amused by Ricky and Robby’s discussion of what queer sex is.
    I like to think that because I’m genderqueer all the sex I have is queer. Aww yis! 🙂

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